What is Studio Craft?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2019
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Studio craft is a movement within the craft world that approaches crafts from an artistic perspective. Crafts are traditionally thought of as objects of necessity and tradition rather than examples of fine art to be made in studios. When crafts are approached from outside the limits of practical use, new and interesting types of craftwork can develop. Any item that is considered a craft can be approached from the studio craft movement, often resulting in reduced functionality. The focus on aesthetic qualities in the studio craft movement helps to bring craft items into the focus of fine art and bring recognition to technical skill involved.

Historically, crafts have been made for functional purposes. Making furniture or quilts, for example, are good demonstrations of extremely technical crafts that are beautiful but do not often garner the praise of artists. A craft is something that is made to be used or is made without any expectation that the item will be displayed in a gallery. The precise difference between a craft and art is already fading, and many items that were once considered purely crafts already have a veneer of artistry.


The studio craft movement concerns the art within the craft. Certainly, beautiful inlaid furniture can be considered art now, even when the original item was made as a piece of furniture intended to be used. If that same piece of furniture were made to serve a purely aesthetic purpose, it could be considered art even though the furniture could conceivably be used.

Traditional folk crafts are often reformed in studio craft contexts. Embroidery and quilts, for example, might be constructed as art without changing much about the original craft. Often, artistic crafts are more complex and fragile than their practical counterparts because an art quilt will likely never be used for warmth. Likewise, it is appropriate to spend countless hours embroidering an object because the embroidery will never be damaged by use.

While professional artists are often responsible for creating studio craft objects, crafts are still readily accessible to talented individuals who may never place a piece in a gallery. As the materials used in crafts are often inexpensive and easy to find, people sometimes take up crafting recreationally with no true need to create the objects. In fact, even those items made by people who consider themselves crafters rather than artists may have purely aesthetic purposes, as items made by hand can often be too precious to wear. As the restrictions on what qualifies as art become broader, the general public and the art world will begin to see the artistry even in the most practical of crafts.


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